This post was written by Melissa Hendrickson, an INCM Blog Team member.
A myriad of qualities are needed when it comes to running a children’s ministry, but these five are key.
1. Great Leaders are In Love with Jesus.
It might seem obvious that someone leading children and their families should be in love with Jesus, but we can’t take this quality for granted.
It can become easy to fill our time doing things for Jesus and miss out on being with Jesus.
If we desire to lead well, we must lead from a place of love.
We need to know how deeply Jesus loves us and reflect that love toward those we lead.
That love should overflow out of us as we conduct meetings, train volunteers, partner with parents, coordinate events, teach classes, and more.
The words that we speak, the tone of our voice, and our body language all communicate volumes.
When we have been with Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit is evident.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control become the filter for all that we say and do.
Great leaders make being with Jesus a priority.
2. Great Leaders Desire to Keep Learning
Leading in children’s ministry is never static.
Change is a part of the job.
Families change. Volunteers change. Rooms change. Staff changes. Curriculum changes. Seasons change.
With all of this change, it is essential that we continue to grow and learn.
- What is the latest research on neurodiversity?
- How can I adapt a classroom so those with learning differences feel like they belong?
- What do I need to know about trauma-informed ministry?
- What is the latest research on the brain?
- Do I understand the developmental stages of the children and families I serve?
- Do I need to write my own curriculum?
- What do I need to know about foster care?
- Is the way I’m teaching children about Jesus the best way?
It is easy to get into a routine where every week looks the same.
Staff meetings, planning for an event, preparing snacks and crafts, teaching lessons, visiting families, etc, etc.
The hours in our week fill up quickly.
Continued learning requires intentionality.
Great leaders make time to get curious about their questions and explore ways to deepen their knowledge of the topics impacting their community.
3. Great Leaders are Compassionate
When a child shows up to your ministry, they bring all of their week’s baggage.
- Did they get in trouble for cheating on a test?
- Did their dog die?
- Did they have to visit a family member they didn’t want to see?
- Did they get yelled at for not measuring up?
- Did they have trouble with their friends?
- Have they eaten?
- Are they rested?
Regardless of how their week was at school, regardless of how much trouble they got into, regardless of whatever hard thing happened at home – they should walk into your space and know that they are deeply loved and that they belong.
Great leaders recognize that every child is bringing remnants of their week to class with them, and they set to work to ensure every child knows that whatever their week has been, they are welcome and they are safe.
In this space, a child can find a snack or a drink if they are hungry or thirsty.
They can find a place to sit down and rest if they are tired.
They can expect all of the adults to treat them kindly and not shout at them.
They don’t feel rushed and aren’t made to feel bad about themselves.
Great leaders know that every child in their ministry has a story, and they respond to those stories with compassion.
4. Great Leaders are Flexible
We are all familiar with things going differently than planned.
It is an inevitable part of life.
Budgets get cut, events get canceled, air conditioners break, volunteers get sick, new programs get added, and the list goes on.
All of those unexpected changes to our plans can make us grumpy. That’s normal.
But there is a resilience that comes from learning flexibility.
The truth is things just don’t always go as planned.
So learning to take a deep breath and then regroup is a good strategy for moving forward and finding a solution.
Great leaders are flexible.
They know that life happens, and they adapt as needed.
5. Great Leaders Take Care of Themselves
The work we do in shepherding children and their families is full of joy, laughter, heartache, and pain.
It is a mixed bag of emotions as we navigate the ups and downs.
Taking care of ourselves so that we can continue to show up is non-negotiable.
- Are you getting enough sleep each night to be your best self the next day?
- Are you taking breaks from social media and your devices to allow your brain and body to settle?
- Are you spending time outside?
- Are you eating food that nourishes your body?
- Are you drinking enough water?
- Are you making Sabbath rest a priority?
- Are you gathering for meals with your community?
- Are you reading your Bible?
- Are you making time to go to the doctor?
- Are you going on vacation?
Great leaders know that taking care of themselves is not selfish but essential.
They know they cannot lead well if their reservoir is empty, so they create rhythms in their life that lead to flourishing.
When it is all said and done, great children’s ministers are leaders who approach ministry holistically.
Their work in ministry isn’t siloed from the rest of their life but is woven into their larger story.
They know that their ability to lead and love can never be solely dependent on them.
They ebb and flow as a leader, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them, and they rely on the community around them as they keep moving forward.
- are in love with Jesus.
- desire to keep learning.
- are compassionate.
- are flexible.
- take care of themselves.
As you think about these five qualities that make a children’s minister great, is there one area you can identify where you would like to grow?
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive.
What other qualities would you add?
Melissa Hendrickson has served children and their families for the past 26 years. She recently founded holyformed.org and is writing and teaching on Spiritual Formation. Melissa has been married for 21 years and has two sons. The oldest is in college, and the youngest is in high school. Melissa loves to read a good book, enjoys a nice cup of Rooibos tea, and always looks forward to traveling with her family.